Posts Tagged ‘Eva Yerbabuena’

Mini-review – Ay! – Eva Yerbabuena at Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival 2013

March 18, 2013

On Friday night, Sadler’s Wells opened its 10th annual flamenco festival with Eva Yerbabuena. She’d decided to avoid the risk of having lesser (or worse yet better) dancers distract from her performance and did the show solo; a treat, really. Of course we had a band so plenty of time for guitar solos and songs while she rested or changed costumes; but mostly, it was her, on the stage, changing her look by adding a scarf or flipping her sleeves inside-out. The overall approach was stripped down in terms of setting as well, with decor consisting of a large chair-like thing and a table that split in half (in fact although I think it was also a metaphor). Yerbabuena drew us along for a heavy emotional ride, leaving me worn out with sadness from the dance/movement piece she did mostly broken and curled across the tabletop; but she also moved with speed and grace, as absorbing as one could hope from a skilled flamenquera who knows how to use her soul as well as her body, with accessories to add to an effect but not distract from the overall feeling.

A special highlight of this evening was the sing-off between the two male dancers that had the audience in stiches; while their song (about how messed up the world is nowadays) wasn’t too funny, apparently the people in the band were teasing them (“Sing it, fatty!”) and having a good time. Laughter and tears: you could hardly ask for a better opening performance for a flamenco festival.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, March 15th, 2013. The Flamenco Festival continues through March 27th.)

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Review – Eva Yerbabuena, “Cuando Yo Era” – 2011 Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival

February 20, 2011

Given that the program for this year’s Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells featured a woman in a polka-dotted bata de cola dress on the cover, Eva Yerbabuena’s contribution, a dance piece advertised with her covered in mud, seemed quite likely to be skipping most of the traditions of the form in favor of something … different. Somehow. I want to say “more personal, more revelatory, more experiential” but what we wound up with wasn’t any of these things. It was much more narrative (or it was certainly trying to be); as the program notes explained, the presentation was of the thoughts running through a man’s mind in the seconds before he is executed.

So what are these thoughts? Memories of an old lover – a girl treating a boy like a fool – bars – a cockfight – Carnevale – and rather a lot of time spent messing about in a potter’s workshop. I didn’t need to have much of a story linking these scenes together, as I’m perfectly used to watching a story ballet in which nearly an hour is given over to “and then people dance in front of the prince and/or princess” – I’m looking for good dance and willing to be flexible about coherence. The scene in a cafe, in which a gorgeous young man (Eduardo Guerrero) attempts to impress a lovely woman in a garish dress, was a delight – both of them posing and flirting and playing off of the band members. Ms. Yerbabuena joined the group on stage, duetting with Guerrero so as both of them spun, her shawl and his coat flew off their bodies to create Saturn-like rings around them. And Guerrero’s duet with Fernando Jimenez, both wearing knee-length tights trimmed with feathers, bells on one’s wrists and the other’s legs, seemed like nothing more than a fight for dominance between two roosters. It was unflamenco-like but in the spirit of the (frequently over-)masculine dance style, and Spanish culture, and I was utterly absorbed.

But. The clay. The pot. The splashing of slip (watered down clay) on Ms Yerbabuena, the spinning of her on a large lazy Susan, the crushing of wet clay pots. The boredom. The pretentiousness. The lack of opportunity for her to really show her stuff because she was so busy being symbolic. I missed her gorgeous arms being allowed to tell a different story, her skill at moving skirts and fans and creating beauty, and resented that she’d trusted her dancing skill so little she’d had to layer on this weighty, dull, “we’re really about more than polka-dots and bullfighting” stuff on top of the performance. As modern dance, it seemed extremely immature, like something a college student would have made.

In the world of flamenco, perhaps this is a performance that is really moving the art form forward. But when you pour all of this extra on top, you are suddenly in the world of a very different style of dance, one that is far more advanced with use of metaphors. It’s sad, really; Yerbabuena is a very talented dancer and I think it’s good that she’s trying to do more than just have people in costumes stamping around on stage (this being not at all how I feel about flamenco, of course). But it didn’t trust the dance enough and it was a waste of the incredible resources that came together to create it. Musically, fantastic; costumes (a dusty palette) delicious and unusual (though a good support bra would have done wonders); artistically, limp. Wah. Still, as she was my favorite performer of last year, there is no doubt that I will be coming to watch her again; but Israel Galvan, giving us nothing more than three men in black on a bare stage, delivered so much more exultation in the end.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, February 18th, 2011. The Sadler’s Wells 2011 Flamenco festival is now over.)

Review – Lluvia – Eva Yerbabuena, Sadler’s Wells’ Flamenco Festival 2010

February 20, 2010

Lluvia, Eva Yerbabuena’s contribution to the 2010 Sadler’s Wells’ Flamenco Festival, was a breath of fresh air after the macho posturings of Nuevo Ballet Espanol. The style was also completely different: it was modern flamenco, with plenty of heel and toe work, but a focus on expressiveness, storytelling, and “pure” dance (of a sort that frequently reminded me of Martha Graham).

We started off with a crowd of people standing in front of a brick wall, and then moved into a scene which was mostly a duet with Eva (I assume) and a tall, slim male dancer (Eduardo Guerrerro). This made me laugh a bit because she started, then he would move in front of her and block her from the audience’s view. Finally, they did a great bit where both of their arms were moving together and it became less of a power struggle, but what I liked is that it was clear that this time, for this performance, it was not going to be about the woman standing in the man’s shadow. It built into a long dance involving a table through which Eva and Eduardo were reaching for each other (it all seemed to be about having a broken heart) which had very little flamenco styling and a lot of modern dance and _lots_ of good music, thoroughly erasing Ballet Nuevo and its cheesy touristic production from my mind.

The most fun of the evening was a long section in which the four supporting dancers (Mercedes de Cordoba, Lorena Franco, Fernando Jimenez, and Eduardo) and Eva “found” a trunk full of costumes, which led to everyone putting on fun, pastelly 20’s style dances and just kind of jamming out to the singers and musicians, who were mostly gathered around a big wooden table. Eduardo played with fans, Eva stole roses, the whole thing was very lighthearted but led to a fantastic solo by Mr. Guerrerro that had the house roaring. He drew circles in the air with his hands, he shook his shoulders, he played with flicking his jacket off, he was NOT just about fancy footwork, he was totally centering the energies of the four singers surrounding him. It didn’t even feel like the piece was “about” him, he was just having a good time dancing, and the energy really carried.

The final piece had Eva wearing a gorgeous black dress with a ruffled skirt trailing behind it and rhinestones up the side, a truly amazing outfit that had her looking like a Spanish Odile – I could have easily have imagined it covered with feathers! She showed a real expertise at what I imagine to be a very difficult Flamenco style – the skirt really gets in the way, frequently forcing the dancer to stay in one position, and motion requires constant attention to moving the train of the skirt. But she was able to flick it around like a kitten with a ball of string. She stood and arched and worked her hands because she wanted to, because she wanted to make a beautiful image with her skirt curling behind her, and when she wanted to move or change direction, the tiny kick to move it was as unnoticable as a flick of her fingers. But she also understood how to make the dress work with the dance, at one point kicking it off to the left and then turning herself to the right so it wrapped around her ankles like waves around a rock.

Eva really gave it all to this long solo and I felt it showed off her skills and personality tremendously. It also emphasized to me the overall superior artistic merit of her “backing band” – I believe that they, and the dancers working with her, felt that to be in this ensemble meant working at a high level of artistry, one they could feel proud being a part of. Enrique El Extremeno, Pepe de Pura, Jeromo Segura and Jose Valencia sang so well that they made me wish I could have bought a CD just to enjoy their great voices. I think Eva wore herself out during her long solo – there was a break at one point, and when she started again, she wasn’t able to recapture the fire. But it was the end of a long evening and I felt it was only fair for her to be tired. I had certainly enjoyed myself – the fresh choreography, great flamenco, and high spirits of this group were well worth watching.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, February 18th, 2010 – the final performance of this group. The Sadler’s Wells 2010 Flamenco Festival continues through February 27th.)